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SXSW 2017: Toward A More Personalized Web

“If your brand was a band, what kind of energy would you create?,” asked WP Engine CEO Heather Brunner during her 2017 SXSW Interactive panel on the personalization of digital experiences.

One of the key themes of SXSW is the energy of being in a live environment and the anticipation of waiting to see a band you love. Brunner explained that when it comes to digital personalization, one should strive to create this same energy but in a digital format.

Heather Brunner presents to a capacity reached room during her SXSW Interactive panel.

So how does one create this form of excitement online?

To get a better understanding of why digital personalization is so important and how to move toward a more personal web, watch the video below and read on for some of Brunner’s insights from her SXSW presentation.

We all want fans who love what we create

“Our digital impression to the world is our face forward around representing who we are, what we stand for, our values, and why our products matter,” said Brunner.

Ultimately you should strive to create brand advocates, which doesn’t just happen but takes time. By creating engaging and memorable experiences online and abiding by a customer first mentality, eventually, your brand will have a following of loyal fans and brand advocates.

Killer Content + Fantastic Experience = Brand Advocacy

Digital experiences are about storytelling. Therefore, the content you put forth should work towards engaging people to come discover your brand. It’s putting that purpose out there — the storytelling behind who you are, why you’re in business and driving one’s desire to learn more and be excited to build a relationship with you, Brunner explained.

Your Customer Experience is Your Digital Strategy (and Vice Versa)

To captivate your audience successfully, you must commit fully to putting the customer at the heart of the digital experience. This means you must work toward building a relationship with your customers.

As human relationships go through stages, those same stages of relationships are what you’re trying to create in your digital experience. Ask yourself, does your brand’s digital presence follow the four pillars below?

A framework to how relationships are built

Through making yourself credible, you earn respect. Once you’ve earned someone’s respect, it leads to trust. Once someone trusts you, they are more likely to become advocates and be willing to share more about themselves.

Ultimately you want to turn your fans into advocates

As you think about building great digital experiences that are more personalized, remember that advocates are willing to share more about themselves. It is critical then that you are earning your customers’ trust so they can share more with you and you can begin to create more relevant experiences.

Trust is earned. People are not going to automatically give you all of their information unless they really trust you as a brand, Brunner explained.

Is Our Digital Experience Advancing Fast Enough?

According to Brunner, “no it’s not.

While ad technology has been around a shorter time than web technology, ad technology is advancing faster.

For example, AdTech gathers all of its information through cookies using large data, machine learning, and computing power at scale to deliver instantaneous recommendations in user experience across the web. “My point of view is that the same paradigm is what it’s going to take for us to deliver that onto websites,” said Brunner.

A website in the future will create the ultimate one-to-one experience, Brunner predicted. The architecture of a website has to come together and assemble real-time instantaneously with an experience for you.

The Future = Human + Machine

Today there are already things being created to help take us on the path toward better personalization. Here are a few different human/technology combinations worth focusing on:

Human + CRM

If you want to do any type of personalization whatsoever, you have to invest in a CRM. Investing in customer relationship management software (CRM) is the next step toward putting the customer at the heart of your digital experience and strategy.

Human + Omni-Channel

The combination of what’s happening on the website, what’s happening on mobile, and thinking about the back-end systems is important so that they’re more compatible and more consistent.

Human + Big Data

With the combination of cloud computing costs coming down and the ability to leverage machine learning, we now have new applications that can be used to help enforce and store data.  This new, bigger data is what will help us create more personalized experiences.

Human + AR / VR

Augmented reality and virtual reality are things that could affect shopping sessions of the future or engagement sessions of the future. Putting yourself in an environment that shows you what it’s like to experience the product, environment, etc. will be the next step in personalization.

Digital Natives Will Rule Personalization

There’s a group of people today that have only grown up in a digital world. As our younger generation gets older, they will expect a personalized experience. The desire to get instant gratification will be stronger than ever, said Brunner.

At the end of the day, it’s all about Humanity

It all comes back that journey of building relationships with our customers, going from credibility to trust and so on, said Brunner. Creating killer interactive content, being more thankful and helpful, and earning trust are the first steps in generating loyal customers.

Once you’ve got a loyal customer, it’s then about how you activate your curiosity to learn more about them. Customer-generated content is a great way to initiate customers to share their experiences about your brand. You have to think of ways to get your customers to be bold in their actions — this is key to learning more about them to deliver the most personalized web experience possible.

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